Gilt. Glitter. Glamour. When you think of the Palace of Versailles, all three leap to your mind. The walls clad in colorful marble. The gilded molding. The sumptuous embroidered silks in the canopies, drapes, and upholstery. And the glimmering crystal chandeliers and renowned Hall of Mirrors. The gold and diamond serves as the final icing on the cake for the elaborate palace, the sparkle, sheen, and shimmer that reaffirms Versailles as one of the richest courts in Europe during the 18th century. In Eat Cake, our 22nd Master Mystery Production, the recreation of the riches of Versailles and the aristocrats was no small feat. From jewelry to specialty props, learn how our talented crew help bring the extravagant splendor of Versailles to life in these delicate touches half a world a way.
ICING ON THE CAKE: The Making of Eat Cake (Part Four)
To bring the gilt and crystal resplendence of Versailles to life at Amargosa Opera House is a challenge. We are blessed as theatrical creators to have Marta Becket’s gorgeous, intricate murals surround us on ceiling, walls, and curtains. They were a key inspiration for us as we designed Eat Cake. The picture above was the starting point in our choosing Versailles as a setting. The richly painted walls gave the opera house more than enough credibility as the regal French palace. We just needed to ass a little extra sparkle to our cast to create the illusion of fabulous, exorbitant wealth.
Nothing says sparkle like jewelry. Jewelry was used as a display of wealth and power, so the selection was important to help our actors convey this idea of the idle rich. Not only in choosing the style of the jewelry, but in how much jewelry to include. And we wanted a lot. The era was marked by extravagance, and, since the show is a farcical take on the period, we wanted moments where we went over-the-top with the jewels. As in any costuming, the accessories reflect a character’s personality. We gave each character a jewel type or color unique to them.
Madame la Comtesse, the wealthiest character in the show, practically drowns in numerous pearl necklaces set in gold to coordinate with her gold, white, champagne, and pearl-colored gown. By contrast, Madame du Pommade, a dark and dangerous gossip hunting for secrets, is dressed in indigo blue like a midnight sky, so her jewels are all black with one pop of color–a butterfly brooch in colors that match her fan. Lady Chantilly’s jewels have a floral motif to showcase her youth and lightness along with the bright colors of her gown. And Marie Antoinette, as the Queen Consort of France, is the only one onstage permitted to wear clear, sparkling diamonds and a tiara.
But jewelry is not the only way to broadcast a character or setting’s wealth and privilege. Special props used by characters can reinforce that image and idea just successfully. Each prop must be selected carefully to fit the era, the tone, the scene, and the character in question. Our Props Mistress (and Diamond Mask Winner) Janis Kunz, along with her stellar partner-in-props, Hope Thoms, sourced, selected, and donated wonderful props living up to the spectacle of Versailles. Props such as the beautiful perfume vial pictured above with its elegant dropper. Or the metal tins to hold the exquisite ingredients for the perfect royal bath. Or a lady’s lacy, colorful fan. Or what about a silver cake knife perfect for polishing? And perhaps most extravagantly, two mirrors for the vain Marquis Mauvais to admire himself in, one of gold and one of silver. Talk about conspicuous excess.
Our final touch of Versailles to bring the palace to our audiences will be in our souvenir program we hand out before the show. While we can’t physically bring you the palace of Versailles to Amargosa Opera House, we can bring you touches of the grand chateau in our design work. Our program was designed to mimic a walk through Versailles starting with the elaborate gardens and moving passed gilded doors, inlaid marble walls, gilded crown molding and paneling, and damask fabric. All of it with touches of Marta Becket’s amazing paintings to honor our host and venue and her legacy. We were very taken by The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition design for Visitors to Versailles where they created a tromp l’oeil wallpaper of the Versailles walls in black and white. We worked on a similar concept for the Eat Cake program, hoping to bring Versailles into the palm of your hand. You can see sample, work-in-progress pages below. You will only see the finished program during Eat Cake.
Each design choice was very carefully considered, sourced, approved, and fitted before it went into our show so that the effect of immense wealth and boiling revolution was perfectly maintained. But the only way to see all the elements come together is to attend a performance of Eat Cake, which opens this Saturday!
Tickets are available through the Amargosa Opera House Front Desk. Call (760) 852-4441 to book your seat for this revolutionary show. Come! Let them eat cake!
See you at the premiere!
–Master Mystery Productions